Mother Marianne’s biography is reprinted

By Connie Berry
SUN editor

The definitive biography of Blessed Marianne Cope, Pilgrimage & Exile, has a new look. The reprint was produced by Mutual Publishing and features a new, more modern cover design. The book, written by Sister Mary Laurence Hanley, OSF, and O.A. Bushnell, (now deceased), was first published in 1980.

Sister Mary Laurence, director of Blessed Mother Marianne’s cause for sainthood, collaborated with Bushnell to write the manuscript. The process took approximately five years to complete. “I would write and then send it to him and he would make changes and then send it back, and then I would make changes,” Sister Mary Laurence said. This was before e-mail became the common method of communication.

Sister Mary Laurence explained that Bushnell had written a couple of novels about Molokai that mentioned Mother Marianne. In the initial stages of the process for canonization a  commission was formed to detail the history of Mother Marianne’s work with the lepers on Kalaupapa. Sister Mary Laurence wrote to Bushnell and he ended up working on the commission.

“One of the first things he said was, ‘I will not work with you on a biography,’” Sister Mary Laurence said with a smile.

Part of the canonization process includes detailed research of the candidate’s life and work. Bushnell wrote a best-selling novel, Molokai which tells the story of Kalaupapa, Hawaii’s quarantined outpost for leprosy patients. In 1974 Bushnell had won the first Hawaii Literary Arts Council Award for the book.  Ironically, Sister Mary Laurence found it interesting that Bushnell described the color of Mother Marianne’s eyes as gray in his book. In all her research, Sister Mary Laurence had not found a reference to her eye color. She figured Bushnell must have much information on Hawaiian history and therefore might be a help in her own research. Sister Mary Laurence wrote to Bushnell and asked about Mother Marianne’s eye color.

“Surprisingly he responded saying he got this wonderful colorful picture of her in his mind from doing research for articles he had written for the Historical Society. He had grown to admire her very much but he humbly admitted that he had made up the color of her eyes,” Sister Mary Laurence said. “Later he would point out to me the irony that our friendship and his participation in the cause was brought about by a lie. He did not know the color of her eyes.”

The two writers began a friendship from their mutual knowledge and admiration of Mother Marianne’s work.

“Ozzy had written some serious pieces of literature about the hospital for leprosy patients in the Honolulu area and the settlement at Molokai so when we needed Historical Commissioners for the cause, we asked him and Agnes Conrad, the state archivist for Hawaii, to do this work. The bishop of Honolulu appointed them officially,” Sister Mary Laurence noted.

Sister Mary Laurence enlisted Bushnell’s assistance in a rather roundabout way, especially since he disliked the idea of writing a biography in the first place. Sister Mary Laurence first sought his help when she sent Bushnell a biography someone had written using notes from their archives. She wanted Bushnell to check the details about Hawaii and medicine.

“Ozzy was a professor emeritus with the University of Hawaii School of Medicine. I could check the other details but not those,” Sister Mary Laurence explained.

Sister Mary Laurence said when the two decided to work together on Mother Marianne’s biography they had over 20 volumes of research collected.

Pilgrimage & Exile takes the reader through an historical journey not only of Mother Marianne’s life and work, but also of the history of Hawaii. For more information about the book, call Sister Mary Laurence at (315) 422-7999.

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